The founding of the Afro-American Studies Department in 1969 took place in the highly-charged political atmosphere which gripped the campus in the wake of the University Hall takeover. Militant black students-- one of whom reportedly carried a concealed meat cleaver--waited somberly outside the Loeb Drama Center while a special Faculty meeting inside debated and then passed the legislation creating the Department.
By contrast, the Faculty this year restructured the Department dramatically--and virtually no protest greeted the decision. With surprisingly little controversy or debate either inside the meeting, or outside, the Faculty voted in January to effect major changes in the Department's structure and leadership.
The Faculty's vote followed the release of the Afro-American Studies Department Review Committee's report in late October. The committee-- which consisted exclusively of people outside the Department--had been meeting for a year. It issued a report that called for the Department to be integrated further into the mainstream of intellectual life at Harvard by permitting students to combine a concentration in Afro with the study of another discipline, and by using joint appointments between Afro-American Studies and other departments to attract new Faculty members.
The Faculty legislation of 1969 directed that all Faculty appointments in Afro-American Studies be in the Department and restricted joint concentrations severely.
The review committee report also recommended limiting the power of student concentrators on the Department's executive committee. Students had been given full voting rights and equal representation with Faculty on the executive committee. The report urged that the right to vote on Faculty appointments also be taken away from the students.
The review committee also took the first steps toward curbing the powers of the chairman of the Department, Ewart Guinier '33. It recommended that the chairmanship be rotated every three or four years among the Department's tenured members. In addition, it called for an extensive search for new Faculty members by search committees appointed by the dean of the Faculty.
The review committee made these recommendations hoping that the Department would recruit new tenured Faculty members by this Spring, one of whom would replace Guinier as chairman.
The report concluded by recommending that the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research be established as a consortium endeavor with other colleges and universities throughout the nation that are interested seriously in Afro- American Studies.
The report was endorsed enthusiastically by three prominent black Faculty and administrators outside the Department--Martin Kilson, professor of Government; Orlando Patterson, professor of Sociology; and, Dean Epps. The three had lobbied for their views during the review proceedings, submitting memoranda to the review committee, testifying at committee sessions, and speaking out on what they believed to be the academic weaknesses in the Department. The three had called for more extreme measures against the Department--mandatory joint appointments and joint concentrations-- but were nonetheless elated with the results.
The only member of the Afro- American Studies Department to break publicly with Guinier, Azinna Nwafor, an assistant professor, also hailed the committee's report. In a memorandum to the committee, he had called for the optional use of joint concentrations and joint appointments to pilot the Department into the mainstream of the University.
Guinier seemed shocked by the report. He refused to comment on its substance for almost two weeks after it was issued and even took an ad in The Crimson where he urged interested people to read his Department's own progress report if they were interested in his feelings on Afro-American Studies at Harvard.
In his report, Guinier opposed joint appointments and said that all appointments in Afro-American Studies should be made by the Department. Guinier also opposed reducing student power on the Department's executive committee.
Guinier's report charged that the University had failed to live up to its commitment to the Afro-American Studies Department in providing for the establishment of the DuBois Institute and in providing funds necessary to attract first-rate Faculty members.
Guinier's case was boosted when The Crimson reported last Fall that Dean Dunlop had misreported a conversation he had the year before with Harold Howe II, a vice president of the Ford Foundation. Dunlop reported to Guinier in 1971 that the Ford Foundation would not fund the DuBois Institute unless it was set up on a University-wide basis. Guinier has opposed this approach, arguing that the Faculty in 1969 directed the Department to develop the Institute.
Howe said this Fall that he never told Dunlop how the Institute should be structured. "It's not my business to tell the University how to go about its affairs," Howe told The Crimson this fall. "The only thing I might have told John is that we were interested in funding a program that would continue to function after our money ran out."